Cameron was RIGHT. Multiculturalism HAS failed!
While we might disagree with David Cameron’s intrusive proposals to integrate minorities, he is correct that multiculturalism has failed.
A curious side-effect of David Cameron’s speech is that the word ‘multiculturalism’ has shifted meaning. It used to mean, and I employ here the Concise Oxford Dictionary, ‘constituting of several ethnic or cultural groups’. The new meaning of ‘multiculturalism’ would be better defined as a partitioned society composed of isolated ethnic, religious and cultural groups. When Cameron states that multiculturalism has failed, he speaks not of the first kind; the kind of integration that has flourished in the United States, he speaks of the second kind, and he is entirely correct to state that it has failed. Cameron stated in his speech on the 5th February that multiculturalism had failed and that we should no longer accept the self imposed separation of certain ethnic and religious groups. He said that instead, we should strive for a more integrated Britain. Predictably, this speech was greeted with considerable anger and Cameron has been accused of playing into the hands of the BNP and fringe groups such as the English Defence League. It has become a staple line that Cameron is a paranoid xenophobe who seeks to make political gain from vastly exaggerating the threat of terrorism.
A 2007 Policy Exchange survey examined the radicalism of younger British Muslims. 40% of 16-24 year olds surveyed desire Shari’a law in Britain, compared to only 17% over the age of 55. 36% of younger Muslims stated that the individual abandonment of religion should be punishable by death, while only 19% of older Muslims agreed. 75% of younger Muslims stated that women should have to wear the hijab compared to 25% of older Muslims. There will no doubt be those who make the rather contradictory claim that this poll is biased, but the fact that our society has fostered a doubling in the number of Muslims who think that abandoning your religion should be punishable by execution, should demonstrate that whatever else he is, Cameron is not paranoid to state that multiculturalism has failed (although he may be ignorant and guilty of understating the case in some ways to speak of young Muslims who cannot identify with traditional Muslim values – they identify with them only too well). It seems that the issue is not simply a malignant minority dwarfed by the huge number of moderate Muslims; we are not dealing with a tiny fringe group, mainstream Islam is simply not moderate and the statistics show that the problem is increasing.
When multiculturalism is discussed presently, it is often left out that we have not yet been adopting a nonrestrictive approach to these demographics, Tony Blair and Charles Clarke’s faith school legacy (one third of schools are now formally affiliated with a religion) has meant state enforced segregation where religious groups (which often transcend to ethnic groups), potentially need to have no exposure with one another from the cradle to the grave. Dr. Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury, while not exactly advocating Shari’a law in the UK – he does suggest that we hand over permission for marital and property disputes to be judged by a Shari’a court in a similar fashion to the Orthodox Jewish courts and the Church of England courts. The inherent injustice in separate courts for different people aside, what about the track record of Islam in matters of marital disputes suggests that the Muslim community should have self-government in this field? The forced marriages, female circumcisions and honour killings (all commonplace within the UK) most certainly do not. This separation from infancy is profoundly obstructive to an integrated society and yet the state continues to sponsor these institutions. While we should reject Cameron’s frightening notion of ‘muscular liberalism’, an immediate end to state driven separation is essential.
It is a pathetic irony that those who ask us to massacre those who insult Islam are the same who demand freedom of expression to spout their mindless prattle. I am not suggesting for one minute that we should not let these people speak; I welcome their thoughts being made fully open to our scrutiny. Instead, I suggest quite the opposite: that we make full use of our own freedom to attack and expose their ideas. The most visible victims of Islamic ideology are of course the Muslims and the Muslim women in particular. While I will have no say in what other people want to wear, I am not going to pretend that the burqa is a benign cultural practice and the obvious question remains of how many women wear the burqa of their own volition, and how many are compelled to do so by their families? The logical conclusion of Cameron’s ‘muscular liberalism’ are that we follow France’s suit and ban practices such as the veiling of women. The state should have no role in the selection of apparel (the best article on this subject is no doubt written by David Mitchell) but we should be as outspoken as possible in our conviction that making women cover their faces in public is oppressive and misogynistic and simply not beneficial to their wellbeing.
The problem that Cameron faces, and that I realise I am subjecting myself to, is that he is promoting an idea that is often heard coming from the wicked, ignorant and detestable far-right organisations. We should be confused by this; just because they are wrong about everything else and because their justifications for this argument are warped and flawed, does not change the fact that Islam is a source for concern and that Shari’a law must be rejected. It is bizarre that it has come to be seen as at odds with the liberal agenda to scold a religion for its intolerance, its misogyny and its violence, and we must not avoid doing so simply to avoid any appearance of agreement with those we harbour contempt for.
We do not need to accept the idea that the state must actively and forcefully integrate the various demographics to identify that the state enforced separatism has been a failure. Rather than Cameron’s somewhat premature ejaculatory response, we should dismantle the systematic segregation from childhood of religious and cultural groups and also the increasingly pitiful reluctance to condemn what we can objectively state to be harmful practices out of misplaced cultural sensitivity. On examination of the above picture you may notice the oh-so-sweet irony of a man employing his right to freedom of speech in order to bawl, “FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION GO TO HELL!!”
A Panorama episode on faith schools can be found here.